Robert Toth, veteran Times reporter as soon as arrested by KGB, dies

Robert C. Toth, a veteran Los Angeles Times reporter and overseas correspondent who was swept into the headlines when he was arrested and interrogated for days by KGB brokers on trumped-up espionage fees, has died at his dwelling in Maryland.

An award-winning journalist who was amongst these whose work helped carry The Times to prominence, Toth died Sunday of coronary heart failure, mentioned his son-in-law Craig Whitlock, a reporter for the Washington Publish. He was 93.

Toth was on the entrance strains for lots of the most significant tales of the second half of the twentieth century — the early days of the area program, the Nixon White Home, the arms race, the Iran-Contra scandal and the Soviet Union’s unsparing repression of dissidents.

“Bob Toth was not only a gifted journalist, but a serious scholar as well,” mentioned Doyle McManus, a Washington columnist for The Times who labored with Toth. “He was proudest not of his Moscow reporting, but of an important 1990 article on U.S. nuclear strategy he coauthored for International Security, a professional journal published by MIT.”

In June 1977, after wrapping up a three-year stint as a Times correspondent within the Soviet Union, Toth was getting ready to depart the nation along with his spouse and three younger kids when he was handed an envelope supposedly containing state paperwork from an individual he believed was a Soviet researcher. He was instantly grabbed by 4 KGB brokers and hustled off to Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo Jail.

Robert C. Toth, proper, with Soviet human rights activist Anatoly Shcharansky in Moscow in 1976.

(Household picture)

Accused of being a spy, Toth was interrogated for days by his unsmiling captors, who pressed him repeatedly about his contact with Soviet dissidents, notably Jewish human rights activist Anatoly Shcharansky. Toth later wrote that he rapidly realized the espionage cost was only a ruse to get him to element his affiliation with Shcharansky.

Toth’s arrest made headlines around the globe and drew rebukes from the White Home and State Division. Supporters gathered in vigil exterior the jail. As he was being interrogated, his household anxious about what was to return.

Then, simply as rapidly as he’d been whisked off the streets, Toth was advised he might depart the nation.

“It ended on a ludicrous note” in later wrote in a first-person account of his ordeal. He mentioned a member of the Soviet information company Tass requested if he’d been handled pretty and questioned whether or not he would sometime get pleasure from returning to the nation.

Toth mentioned he bit his tongue. However his escort from the U.S. Embassy didn’t.

“You forcibly detain him, interrogate him without allowing an American official to be present, accuse him of collecting secret political and military information … and you ask if it was fair?”

After Toth returned to The Times’ Washington bureau, Shcharansky was sentenced to 13 years in jail however later launched in a prisoner swap in 1986. Shcharansky now lives in Israel.

The son of a coal miner, Toth grew up in Throop, Pa., a small, sooty coal city close to Scranton. His grandparents each suffered from black-lung illness and he wrote that early demise was a standard destiny in Throop. Acid fumes drifted within the air, blistering the paint off of properties. Yellow sulfurous wastewater poured into the Lackawanna River and our bodies of miners who died in cave-ins or explosions have been positioned in wagons and delivered to family members, together with $100 for burial bills.

Toth enlisted within the Marine Corps. after World Warfare II ended and acquired out of Throop. He later attended Washington College in St. Louis on the GI Invoice after which earned a grasp’s diploma at Columbia, have been he studied journalism. He landed on the Windfall Journal as a basic project reporter after which moved to the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times’ Washington bureau. He was employed by the Los Angeles Times in 1963.

Throop returned to his hometown in 1990 to take inventory of its blemished surroundings. At first look, he wrote, a lot had improved. The mines have been gone. The towering piles of coal sludge had been leveled and became baseball diamonds. The carp, and even some trout, had returned to the river.

However one other environmental hazard had arrived within the type of poisonous waste that out-of-state factories have been trucking to Throop and illegally pumping into the deserted mine shafts. In the meantime, rubbish from Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey was being hauled to the small city and dumped on its outskirts. “We call the Throop dump the ‘magic mountain’ because it grew so fast,” one resident advised Toth.

Alongside the way in which, Toth gained quite a few awards for his work, together with the George Polk Award for his reporting in Moscow and Georgetown College’s Weintal Prize for his work with McManus on CIA operations in Central America. After retiring from The Times in 1993, he served as a fellow with the Pew Analysis Heart for The Individuals & The Press.

Toth is survived by Paula Goldberg Toth, his spouse of 68 years; daughters Jessica Toth and Jennifer Toth; son John Toth; sister Barbara Polovitch and 5 grandchildren.